Conservation and Amenity Advisory Service
P. Healy, July 1983


A letter dated 23 June 1983 was received from Mr. E. G. McCarron, Deputy Dublin Planning Officer, requesting information on the extent of the earthworks associated with Carrickmines Castle, and the possibility of moving the road to avoid them.


A strongly fortified castle was built at Carrickmines soon after the Anglo-Norman invasion. It was occupied by the Walshes, but in time of danger troops were also stationed there; in 1360 a troop of light horsemen, in 1375 a large force under John Coulton, and in 1388 forty mounted archers. In 1593 the lands of Carrickmines were completely devastated despite the presence of a troop of horse which were stationed there.

During the rising of 1641 the Walshes supported the Irish side, and Carrickmines Castle became the centre for the Irish army in the south county, which was completely under their control. Theobald Walsh, the owner, held the rank of Captain. In March 1642 an attempt was made to dislodge the Irish from their position. A troop of horse under Sir Simon Harcourt, one of the ablest officers in the English army, laid siege to ther Castle while reinforcements were sent for to carry out an assault. Meanwhile, Harcourt was mortally wounded by a marksman on the Castle, and died the next day.

Gibson then took charge and effected an entry to the castle, whereupon the whole garrison of 300 men, women, and children were put to death. The castle was then blown up and levelled to the ground.

In the Civil Survey of 1654 it is described as the walls of a castle, an orchard and a garden plot and a bawn. In 1781 Austin Cooper, the antiquary, was able to find only a pier of masonry, part of the castle gate.


The traditional location of the castle is indicated on the O.S. maps, in the haggard of the farm which now occupies the site, but no trace survives here above ground. The pier of masonry described in 1781 still remains at the other end of the farm buildings, and appears to have been part of a gatehouse as it contains a slit window which commands the ancient avenue leading to the castle. This pier or wall is 4 m long, 5.5 m high and 1.20 m thick, and the window is 110 cm wide inside and 14 cm wide outside.

The remains of the bawn can be still be seen, an enclosure 116 m long and of unknown width, bounded on the NW by the remains of an earthwork, on the NE by the Carrickmines River, and on the SW by the Castle site. The boundary on the SE side cannot now be traced, but was probably the line of the Glenamuck Road. The general shape of the bawn is indicated on the Rocques map of 1760.

The earthwork is 67 m long and consists of the remains of three fosses and two banks of soil, much levelled, of what must have been a formidable defensive feature. The fosses were fed by an artificial watercourse which was taken from a stream and conveyed for a distance of 240 m. This watercourse is now silted up and difficult to trace on the ground.

The outer fosse was 7 m wide at ground level, and the outer bank 1.5 m wide on top. The middle fosse was 4.5 m wide and the inner bank 3.5 m wide on top. The inner fosse which is less disturbed is 9 m wide and 2 m deep. Parallel to the inner fosse is the ancient avenue leading to the castle. This is 8.5 m wide including the drains along each side. This avenue led out across the Carrickmines River at a point where the two banks are faced with stone abutments which would have supported either a permanent bridge or a drawbridge. This river formed the SE boundary of the bawn and the two banks of the earthwork already mentioned turn in along the bank of the river, but do not continue on the other side of the avenue. The bed of the river is quite deep along here and double earthen banks may not have been considered necessary.

Carrickmines Castle was an important outpost, and although little survives of the buildings, the earthworks are quite exceptional and are worthy of preservation. If the line of the road was moved southward by about 10 m it would avoid interference with the earthwork but come very close to the surviving fragment of the castle.

If, on the other hand, the line of the road was placed on the south side of the farm it would avoid any interference with the ancient sites, and have the advantage of connecting at right angles to a straight stretch of the Glenamuck road.

In either case it is important to put a temporary protective barrier around the ancient features to ensure they are not used as spoil dumps.

Bawn: the fortified court or outwork of a castle
Fosse: a ditch or dyke formed to serve as a barrier against an advancing foe, a moat surrounding a fortified place
Abutments: the solid part of a pier or wall, against which an arch abuts, or from which it immediately springs, acting as a support for the thrust or lateral pressure

NOTE: We will be publishing the maps relating to the changed route shortly.

At the bi-annual meeting of the Environmental Co-ordinating Committee of the National Development Plan and Community Structural Funds earlier today, An Taisce has asked for a letter from the National Museum of Ireland about the "serious shortcomings in both the EIS and the monitoring of the gas pipeline" at Carrickmines Castle Complex in County Dublin to be addressed before work begins.



The letter, dated 6 September 2002, was released to the organisation under Freedom of Information Act and was submitted to the 27 members of the Committee this morning.

The Museum examined the matter of the omission of the 1983 Foras Forbatha Report by Paddy Healy from the bibliography of the EIS and state that the "implication would appear to be that the compilers of the EIS not only failed to consult the Foras Forbatha Report, but even failed to consult (or adequate consult) the Site and Monuments [SRM] file for this site".

The letter further states that "The Irish Antiquities Division Archive has included a file on a coin hoard from Carrickmines castle since its acquisition in 1995 which is also omitted from the EIS." The coin hoard, was located east of the road in an area ignored by the EIS. "The question why this vitally important information was not included in the EIS is a serious matter that should be addressed…"

Further, the letter, addressed to Dr. David Sweetman, Chief Archaeologist of D??chas, the Heritage Service from Eammon P. Kelly, the Keeper of Irish Antiquities at National Museum, also addressed the Bord Gais pipeline laid across the site recently.

The letter states that the gas pipeline at Carrickmines "cut across the defences at Carrickmines castle (including the stone revetted fosse) in at least four separate locations, and also cut through the interior of the castle over a total distance of approximately 150 meters". The letter states: "Yet the report on the monitoring makes no reference to these features and does not record so much as a single shard of pottery from the site (a prehistoric deposit of heat shattered stone was noted some distance from the castle site). Given what we know about the wealth of archaeological at these sites, these results do not seem credible."

Indeed, the letter concludes, "in view if the evidence of serious shortcomings in both the EIS and the monitoring of the gas pipeline, questions may also need to be asked about the State's regulating and monitoring such activities."

A spokesman for An Taisce stated that "The archaeological find at Carrickmines are the property of the State and their destruction is a criminal offence. "But the licence holders must not be scapegoated. The investigations must centre on the National Roads Authority archaeologists, the two consulting companies involved, and the National Monuments Section of D??chas, Minister Cullen's Heritage Service.

We are calling on Ministers Breenan and Cullen to suspend all work on the motorway until the questions raised by the National Museum as to the competence of the State archaeological controls have been satisfactorily addressed.

The organisation added that 35% of the site remains unexcavated and 75% - to 80% of the excavated area will be destroyed on Monday morning unless the Government moves to addresses this issue.

Spokesman: Ian Lumley, Heritage Officer
An Taisce 01 454 1786
Copy Museum Letter available electronically
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

David Hanley
Tony Lowes

DH: Seamus Brennan yesterday announced that he will preserve the maximum amount of Carrickmines castle site while allowing work on the M50 to proceed. Under the proposals the Glenamuck road roundabout will be raised and tilted in order to preserve important archaeological features such as a 50-metre section of defensive structure and other features will be relocated. What do you make of the Minister's announcement?

TL: My reaction is one of outrage, David, because we've just discovered that the Minister or the Government or the Planning Authorities knew since 1983 he extent of these earthworks.

DH: How do you mean, since 1983?

TL: In 1983 they were considering putting the ring road around Dublin. Let me read to you from An Foras Forbatha Report dated 1983 - which I am sure you know is a body that did great work:

"A letter dated 23 June 1983 was received from Mr. E. G. McCarron, Deputy Dublin Planning Officer, requesting information on the extent of the earthworks associated with Carrickmines Castle, and the possibility of moving the road to avoid them."

The report went on to details all the different kinds of ruins that were there, the pier of masonry, the gatehouse, the enclosures, the bawn 116 metres long, earthen works 67 metres, fosses with water conveyed from a stream 240 metres away, an outer fosse 70 metres long, a middle fosse, the inner fosse, and so on and so on - until we reach the actual conclusion in which he says:

"Carrickmines Castle was an important outpost, and although little survives of the buildings, the earthworks are quite exceptional and are worthy of preservation. If the line of the road was moved southward by about 10 m it would avoid interference with the earthwork but come very close to the surviving fragment of the castle.

If, on the other hand, the line of the road was placed on the south side of the farm it would avoid any interference with the ancient sites."

And that is what happened in the 1993 Dublin Development Plan. If you look at that you will see the road went well south of the then identified castle and ruins. When we come to 1997 and the Environmental Impact Statement there is no mention of this report.

What they say is there were "cultivation ridges and lynchets". I had to go look up what a lynchet meant - it's the little area between the furoughs when you plough a field - it's a piece of raised ground. So all I've described to you in a Foras Forbatha report which was prepared for the decision making authority has become "cultivation ridge and lynchets" and the road goes straight through them.

DH: Do you know why they are going straight through the ruins rather than avoiding it?

TL: I presume it's a cost factor but the truth is that they appear not to known in 1997 of the Report on the ruins. This is what the EIS says in 1997:

"All possible options for the route were examined from an engineering and environmental viewpoint and as a result of these studies the line now being recommended differs from that indicated in the Development Plan maps."

No reasons are given. No reasons are given.

DH: Hummmm. Well, well be talking to the Minister later on and we'll see if we can find out a reason. They also say that rerouting the motorway right now would cost tens of millions of euro and would take five years?

TL: Well, can we stop here and try and analyse what the Minister is saying? If he is going to make any significant changes to the route of the motorway he needs a new planning permission. If he makes any changes - you built a house - we know what the planning laws are like - you don't "tilt" your house after you get planning permission. You don't move your house after you got planning permission.

Everything the Minister has done is purely cosmetic. The only way to address this problem is to go back to the planning process. And in view of the Report, which the authorities knew of, I don't think the decision is valid, David.

DH: Hummm. Are you going to take any action?

TL: We have already discussed this with the Commission and it is because of that discussion that we decided to publish this Report on our website, We are supplying the Commission with information, we are supplying them with copies of the relevant documents - the problem David, in one word, is Nice. The Commission is very reluctant to pull the funding on this project right now because they believe it would alter the outcome of the referendum.

DH: Meanwhile you don't believe this is a done deal - you don't accept this is a done deal?

TL: If the decision is invalid, we'll get there one day.

DH: All right Tony, thank you very much for taking our call and good luck to you. [This was omitted in the broadcast version.]

T: Thank you very much, David.



Dáil Éireann - Volume 440 - 24 March, 1994 - National Monuments (Amendment) Bill, 1993 [ Seanad ]: Second Stage.

(3) (D) An order made under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if an order annulling the order is passed by either such House within the next twenty-one days on which that House has sat after the order is laid before it, the order shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder'.".

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins): I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

"With this broader perspective in mind I would like to draw the attention of Deputies especially to section 15 of the Bill which extends legislative protection to such sites of archaeological importance.

The proposal arises from the commitment made in the Programme for a Partnership Government 1993-1997 to "prohibit the giving of consent to the demolition of monuments without approval by the Oireachtas in exceptional circumstances and after a full archaeological excavation".

At present the Commissioners for Public Works, or the local authorities acting jointly with the commissioners are empowered, under the National Monuments Act, 1930, to give consent to the demolition or alteration of a national monument in the care of the commissioners or of a local authority or a national monument in private ownership which is the subject of a preservation order. The consent may be given by the commissioners in the interests of archaeology or for any other reason.

In the majority of cases where such a consent would be sought the purpose would be to allow an archaeological excavation. However, it may also happen that other physical changes to a monument might be required for reasons of public safety or health, for instance, if a monument is in a dangerous condition. It can happen too that consent would be given when the purpose is to allow a building programme to proceed. The most notable example of a consent of this nature would commonly be regarded as the joint consent given by the commissioners and the local authorities in respect of the Wood Quay site in Dublin in 1979.

The clash of interest between the imperatives of heritage and the exigencies of development over the fate of the archaeological site at Wood Quay [1340] involved the people of Ireland as never before. When called upon, the State's legislative and administrative structure, as with the Derrynaflan case, was insufficient for the task of channelling the argument in a manner acceptable as fair to all involved. What happened at Wood Quay was perhaps the single most important incident affecting the administration of archaeology in this State and the trauma has reverberated to the present day.

While in the intervening decade administrators have done much to accommodate the often competing needs of development and archaeology, in the absence of broader and more democratic legislative structures there is nonetheless still a potentiality for damaging conflict. In the present co-operative environment it can be anticipated that cases like Wood Quay should not arise.

However, where such a conflict of interest does arise there will at least be a process in place that will allow an informed debate and the ultimate decision to be taken in a manner which permits prior maximum consultation and open expression of views."

Carrickmines Castle Complex is an 8 acre complex of mediaeval and post mediaeval buildings, including a 3 acre castle site unique in national and international importance. More than 90,000 artifacts have been recovered since work began, which is now terminated for the construction. The M 50 Southern Cross Motorway route, which was to run the South of the ruins, was inexplicably changed between 1992 and 1997 to run through the center of site. The Report on which the previous route was based was "lost".


Latest: Petition to the President of the European Commission

Hearing March 20, 2003

There are two scandals. The complicity of the archaeological community in the destruction of our heritage is one scandal. The letters from the National Museum to Duchas condemning them have been released under FOI.

The other scandal relates to the purchase and rezoning of land bought by Jackson Way Properties (whose principals are unknown and who are before the Planning Tribunals), and the relocation of the motorway from the original southern route which followed the 1983 Report and avoided the ruins.

The question is: are they connected?

This may be the biggest and most expensive scandal in Irish history.

FIE reply to the EU Letter on the failure of the EIA process
18 February, 2003

European Commission Letter of Inquiry to Ireland
10 October, 2002

Read the most authoritative site description:

"Border Castles in the Twilight Zone"

Read the most authoritative site history:

"A much disputed land: Carrickmines and the Dublin marches"

Read the "Lost" Government Report that shows the authorities knew of the extent of ruins.

Read the letter from the National Museum that supports our claims.

The legislation requiring Dail debate


Read about the land rezoning and corruption behind the change in the motorway